FirstLight Power has applied to relicense a number of existing hydroelectric power facilities on our portion of the CT River. Greening Greenfield does not want these licenses to allow operations for another 50 years like the last 50 have been. Read on to learn more background and see how you can Take Action.
In early January 2023, another delay was approved (see last 2 paragraphs), giving FirstLight until March 31 2023 and FERC until May 31 2023 to issue the REA notices. See LEARN MORE for a description of the process. This will probably be delayed due to change below.
FirstLight has submitted a "final" Flow and Fish Passage Settlement Agreement to FERC dated 3/31/23 seeking a 50-year license. Topics such as Erosion (truly not done), Cultural Heritage (there is an Memorandum of Understanding), and Recreation (lots addressed in Flow, and perhaps in separate documents) are still not fully done and may still be being negotiated.* Don't forget that the "Final" Settlement Agreement, is only "final" for the entities who agreed to it, which does not include all Interested Parties, nor the DEP itself, nor the FERC.
The FERC responded on April 7, 2023 with a Notice of Settlement Agreement, giving the public until May 7, 2023 to file comments on the Settlement Agreement with their reply comments due by May 22, 2023.
On April 26, 2023, the FERC told FirstLight to submit cost information for the various provisons of the Settlement Agreement within 15 days.
Connecticut River Conservancy asked the FERC to extend the public comment period until 15 days after the financial information is received so all could include that in their comments, and the FERC has agreed and extended the comment period until MAY 26!
We have until May 26 to submit our initial comments, and if this new data gives us something else to say, or we think of something we forgot, we can Comment again.
* "This Settlement Agreement is the end product of the Parties’ work on: (1) fish passage, (2) flows for fishery, ecological conservation and recreation purposes, and (3) protected, threatened and endangered species, and as to the Parties, addresses all outstanding issues for the relicensing of the Projects on those topics (“Topics within the Scope of this Agreement”)"
In April and May 2023 our attention is now focused on the FERC. But we will shift back to MassDEP again soon. Greening Greenfield has mostly focused on the PROCESS of this relicensing, especially the neglected part that the state has to play. In this regard we've made some good progress with your help and the help of our legislative delegation:
- Our Request for public meetings has been heard!
- MassDEP launched their new web page to help us track this process. And it is confirming and giving details about the 4 public meetings. Great work everyone!!
- MassDEP has added an option to be added to their mailing list to be notified of updates to the 401 process. We recommend you sign up to hear the latest.
What's Next? See Take Action for what DEP has agreed to and what still needs work.
Greening Greenfield would like as many people as possible to be involved in the relicensing effort, continuing to make local voices heard about the health of our river.
Although the federal government is the ultimate licensing agency, Massachusetts has the POWER to define how our river can be used, by issuing a Water Quality Certificate. MassDEP* does not have a well-defined required process for soliciting public comment on a Water Quality Certification. In the recent past, they have simply required a public notice in the newspaper, which is easily missed, and a 20-day comment period. This is now much better than that minimum, but we need to stay on top of their proposed process and convince them to get the details right. AND it appears that according to regulations they don't control, there will still only be 20 days in the FORMAL public comment period. We have to pay attention.
FirstLight Power operates interrelated hydroelectric projects on the Connecticut River that are currently up for relicensing. These hydro projects include
- Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Facility
- The "impoundment area" - the 20 miles of CT River above the Turners Falls Dam, from Barton Cove to Vernon, VT
- Turners Falls Dam itself
- Station One - a tiny power generating plant, and
- Cabot Station
Upstream dams in VT & NH are not covered here, but we urge you to learn about other relicensing projects from other sources, such as the Connecticut River Conservancy and Great River Hydro. The FERC has indicated it will issue a single Environmental Impact Statement for all of these combined projects. Flow available from upstream affects us.
TAKE ACTION for
- Prior action successes
- A description of our new, current ACTION ITEMS: Comment to FERC, add yourself to DEP lists for updates, & request better communication
- Sample letter ideas
- Names and addresses
LEARN MORE for background information including:
- Pumped storage: purpose and problems
- $$ Two other notes on money $$
- Links to other sources of information including documents
Greening Greenfield is currently focusing on the PROCESS of relicensing, and urges you to contact other sources for more information about the technical aspects of river flow, erosion, fish habitat, recreation, and more, including
*Acronyms (some used by GG; many more in formal documents)
AIP - Agreement in Principle
AFLA - Amended Final License Application
AMC - Appalachian Mountain Club
AMM - Adaptive Management Measures
AW - American Whitewater
CRC - Connecticut River Conservancy
CTB - Cobblestone Tiger Beetle
DEP or MassDEP - Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
EEA / EOEEA - Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
EIS - Environmental Impact Statement
FERC - Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
FL - FirstLight Power
FLA - Final License Application
FPA - Federal Power Act
GG - Greening Greenfield
ISO-NE - Independent Systems Operator - New England
MDFW - Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
MEPA - Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act
MW - Megawatts
NEPA - National Environmental Policy Act
NMFS - National Marine Fisheries Service
NRF - Naturally Routed Flow
PM&E - Protection, Mitigation, & Enhancement
PTB - Puritan Tiger Beetle
REA - Ready for Environmental Analysis
SNS - Shortnose Sturgeon
TF - Turners Falls
TFI - Turners Falls Impoundment
TNC - The Nature Conservancy
USFWS - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS - United States Geological Survey (usually used in FirstLight documents for USGS "gage" or "gage flow")
WQC - Water Quality Certificate